By: Danielle Bucco
With the Zika Virus starting to spread further there is a fear that it will reach the United States. This can be a scary thought for people trying to become pregnant. Many people are worried and afraid, especially since the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency. However, learning more about the Zika Virus can decrease your chances of contracting it.
What is it?
On the news, they seem to spend a lot of time talking about the spread of the virus but not on exactly what it is or how it is carried. The Zika Virus first started in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Isles, but in May 2015, it was confirmed to be in Brazil as well. Since then, it has traveled to other areas of South America moving up into Central America. The United States has not confirmed its arrival here but it has been seen in some of the returning travelers, and sources say those numbers will only go up.
Now that we know where it can be found, we can answer the question of what exactly it is. The Zika Virus is a disease that is mainly carried by infected mosquitoes. When it bites a person, it spreads to them causing the person to get infected with the virus as well. Since mosquitoes are air borne, it makes it next to impossible to control it from spreading. These mosquitoes can be found both indoors and outdoors, wherever there is a small amount of stagnant water.
What does it do? How does it affect pregnancies?
The symptoms of the virus usually include a fever, rash, joint pain, and eye irritation (conjunctivitis). However, if a woman is pregnant and she is infected with the virus things can get slightly more complicated. It is possible for the pregnant mother to pass this virus to the fetus, which can cause some birth defects to the child. The birth defect that has been most commonly reported is what is called microcephaly, which is an abnormally small head and can also be associated with brain damage.
How can it be prevented?
There are still many unknowns when it comes to this virus, such as a cure, but one thing that is known is how to prevent getting it. The first prevention would be to avoid the places that have been known to spread this virus. However, if traveling is required it can be helpful to remember the following tips:
- Limit exposure to places most commonly known to have mosquitoes, such as forests, marshes, or stagnant water.
- Always wear insect repellent. This will help keep away the mosquitoes and prevent you from getting bitten by one that could potentially be carrying the virus.
- Wear long sleeves and pants. The less places the mosquitoes have to bite, the less likely you will be bitten, which can save you from infection.
- Stay in air-conditioned places with screens on the door to keep mosquitoes outside.
- If you are unable to stay inside an air-conditioned room, sleep under a mosquito bed net to help protect you from mosquitoes.
By following these simple prevention tips, it will not only help to keep an individual from contracting the virus, but also others as well. The more everyone tries to prevent it, the slower it will spread, which will hopefully cause it to be longer before it enters the United States. By being more aware for what to look out for and the risks involved, people looking to become pregnant can rest easy knowing they are doing their part in preventing the Zika Virus from infecting the fetus.